Q. Why are you here at Marshall?
I am here for two reasons. There’s a logistical one, which is that this weekend is the NoVa Teen Book
Festival, and something I’ve learned getting into the writing space is a lot of these festivals will book these authors at school visits. We’ll get to visit these local schools that will often usually not have authors come visit them. But I’m here for a more thematic reason, or I guess a more personal reason. This is my actual
favorite part of being an author, being able to be in schools and getting to meet the intended audience of your books. I went to a school where we didn’t get visits. This is not a thing that would ever happen, and I think about how great it would have been to see someone like myself who was successful and who made it, and I want to provide that sort of view and let kids know that you can be creative, and you can be a
weirdo, and you can be a bookworm. And there is a path, there is a life for you where you get to be those things. I grew up in a time where being a bookworm and a nerd was not cool, and it’s changed a lot. It’s weird to me that kids are hanging out in this library. When I grew up, the library was the worst place you could be. You were not supposed to hang out there, it wasn’t cool. But I notice now as I’m doing more school visits that this is actually one of the best places to hang out, and it just blows my mind. It’s so strange. So that’s a big reason why I’m here. I love talking to teenagers about writing and what it’s like to be a writer.
How often do you talk to kids?
Sometimes. It really depends, every school is different. I just came from Justice High School where it wasn’t the library, specifically. It was an avid class, a book club. I’ve done school visits as a part of this program called LGBTQ Writers in Schools through Lambda Literary, with specifically queer authors in schools, so a lot of those have been like Gay Straight Alliance or Queer Straight Alliance, so it’s not really a book club, but you’re there for very specific reasons. And sometimes it’s just an English teacher who just wants me to speak. I speak to a class where no one knows who I am, no one’s ever heard of my book or read it or anything. I’ve done school visits in D.C. where the kids were assigned my book, which is a trip. It is very very surreal. So it depends. I sort of have to adapt the conversation and what my presentation is based on what sort of environment it is.
Would you say that your experience on Youtube aides you in public speaking and speaking to teenagers?
Yes. So I did public speaking in high school, and it was actually a way I got over my shyness and feeling uncomfortable speaking to people. And I had a really great coach, Mrs. Alford, who I’m still in contact with. She’s wonderful. So doing Mark Reads helped my writing and it also helped my public speaking because a lot of the events I would do was speaking to crowds of strangers. It is a very weird thing to have to go into a room, and you don’t know anyone in that room, and you have to somehow be charming, but entertaining, but interesting. And so being
someone who has basically read books on the internet, it helps.